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Shibley Righton Condo e-bulletin
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The Coronovirus’s Impact on Condominium Living
 
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By Joel Berkovitz and Patrick Greco

Three months ago, few people had heard of a ‘coronavirus’. Yet now, only a few months after it first appeared on the international radar, the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is a global health concern, and having significant impact on community health, stock markets, event planning, and politics.

While we have not yet seen the widespread shutdown of public events in Canada, this is rapidly occurring in Asia, Europe, and parts of the USA. Major sporting and music events and university classes are being cancelled, and ‘social distancing measures’ are being widely implemented.

At the present time Canadian health authorities are treating the virus with caution and have recommended only that the general public take common-sense steps to limit the risk of infection. The Public Health Agency of Canada currently assesses the public health risk associated with the coronavirus as low for the general population. There are fewer than 100 total cases in Canada, and only 36 in Ontario. While there is widespread reporting of the spread of the coronavirus, the overall risk appears to be low and there is no reason for panic.

However, it is not unreasonable to expect that the spread of the virus will continue in Ontario and we may begin to see the government and many private organizations enact restrictions on large gatherings of people. We think it is worthwhile to prepare for this contingency.

Condominium communities face unique challenges in the face of public health emergencies because they are often both homes and workplaces at the same time. The question we are receiving from many of our clients is what, if anything, they should be doing in response to this situation, particularly as it relates to their Annual General Meetings.

We have assembled below several strategies to deal with the current situation. This is not medical advice, but rather some common-sense measures that condominium communities may wish to implement to help keep people safe and avoid undue panic or concern.

If you have an upcoming meeting of owners, encourage owners to submit proxies, rather than attend the meeting in person (though of course they are welcome to attend if they wish), and ask anyone who is feeling unwell not to attend. Owners who wish to raise issues at the meeting can be invited to submit their questions in advance. Their questions will be answered at the meeting and management can relay the answer to them afterwards. You may also wish to consider the use of an electronic proxy or electronic voting service to make it easier for owners to submit their choices in advance of the meeting.
Many buildings which do not have rooms large enough for holding owners’ meetings hold their meetings at local community centres, public schools, or retirement centres. We have recently learned that many of these facilities are beginning to cancel public meetings. If you have a meeting scheduled at an off-site facility, we strongly encourage you to contact it to confirm your arrangements and its coronavirus plans, and potentially anticipate a cancellation.
Be sensitive to residents who have concerns about members of the corporations’ staff and/or contractors entering their units. Reasonable precautions should be taken by the corporation. A staff member who is sick or feeling unwell should be encouraged to stay home from work (and certainly not enter anyone’s unit). If a resident is particularly concerned, staff and contractors can wear gloves and an appropriate mask while in the unit. Similarly, if a worker is concerned about entering a unit because a resident is unwell, similar steps should be taken, or if the entry is not for an emergency, it can be delayed.
Related to the previous point, corporations may wish to review upcoming construction projects and service calls, especially those that involve unit access, and consider, where possible, whether these can be deferred. Of course, this is a balancing act. Important operational and safety matters, such as regular equipment maintenance or fire inspections, must proceed until such time as government authorities suspend or prohibit such activities.
Encourage all residents and staff members to comply with public health recommendations. Most importantly, this means if you feel unwell, stay home from work, and if you are in contact with anyone who may have the coronavirus, you should self-quarantine in accordance with public health recommendations. If a resident is in quarantine, management should be informed (via phone or email) so that the corporation’s staff know not to enter their unit.
Schedule additional sanitizing of common areas, and, particularly highly trafficked ‘touch points’ such as elevator buttons, railings, and door handles.
 
While the above measures should be helpful, please note that the situation is extremely fluid and is changing daily; additional measures could soon be required. Boards and Property Managers should monitor and follow the advice of Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health and local municipal public health departments prior to taking any major steps. By doing so, you can help make sure that reasonable protective steps are taken while still permitting condominium sites to remain functional for those who live and work there.

Information regarding the status of the coronavirus in Canada is available here. The Government of Ontario has a page with information on the coronavirus in Ontario here, and Toronto Public Health has information here.
 
Condominium Tip - Smoking and Grandfathering
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By Audrey Loeb

It has always been our practice when enacting rules for condominium corporations to grandfather those residents who live in the building and otherwise would not be compliant with the rule once it became effective.

The most common rule where this applies would be one where the board decides, that in the best interests of all the owners, the building should be smoke free.

Typically, our rule provides for the grandfathering of those residents who smoke at the time the rule is passed. The grandfathering allows the resident to continue smoking so long as they continue to reside in their unit, and so long as the smoke doesn’t bother anyone else.

Two recent decisions in the Ontario courts, however, have found that it was within a corporation’s authority to enact no-smoking rules which provided either for no grandfathering, or grandfathering for only a limited period of time.
Please speak to us if you are interested in this approach.


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Armand Conant
T: 416.214.5207
F: 416.214.5407
E: aconant@shibleyrighton.com
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Audrey Loeb
T: 416.214.5267
F: 416.214.5467
E: aloeb@shibleyrighton.com
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Deborah Howden
T: 416.214.5279
F: 416.214.5479
E: deborah.howden@shibleyrighton.com
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Warren Kleiner
T: 416.214.5238
F: 416.214.5438
E: wkleiner@shibleyrighton.com
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John De Vellis
T: 416.214-5232
F: 416.214.5432
E: john.devellis@shibleyrighton.com
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Patrick Greco
T: 416.214-5220
F: 416.214.5420
E: pgreco@shibleyrighton.com
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Megan Mackey
T: 416.214.5214
F: 416.214.5414
E: mmackey@shibleyrighton.com
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Joel Berkovitz
T: 416.214.5264
F: 416.214.5464
E: joel.berkovitz@shibleyrighton.com
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Luis Hernandez
T: 416.214.5259
F: 416.214.5459
E: lhernandez@shibleyrighton.com
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Evan Holt
T: 416.214.5239
F: 416.214.5439
E: eholt@shibleyrighton.com
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Inder Suri
T: 416.214.5239
F: 416.214.5439
E: isuri@shibleyrighton.com
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HAMILTON AREA
4145 N. Service Rd. 2nd Floor
Burlington, ON L7L-6A3
Main: 905.769.0409
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TORONTO
250 University Avenue#700
Toronto, ON M5H 3E5
Main: 416.214.5200
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Shibley Righton LLP · 250 University Ave. · Suite 700 · Toronto, On M5H 3E5 · Canada